Monday, February 16, 2009
Joe Sumner (Fiction Plane) Interview
Although you may not know him, you've probably heard of his dad. Joe Sumner is the son of famous musician Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting. Following in his father's footsteps, Joe is now the lead singer and bass player for the rock band Fiction Plane. The group opened for The Police on their infamous reunion tour.
I had the chance to interview Mr. Sumner through email last year and finally got around to posting it here. Here goes:
1) When you first began as a group, your band name was Santa’s Boyfriend. You then changed it to Fiction Plane. Where did these names come from?
Santa's boyfriend is a racehorse, Fiction plane is racetrack.
2) Mr. Sumner, I’ve heard the last thing you ever wanted to do when you grew up was to be a musician, partly because of the popularity of your father. What inevitably changed your mind?
Looking at other careers.
3) Many people recall the first time they heard their song on the radio. How did it feel to first hear one of your songs on the radio?
The very first time I thought, "hmmmm, vocal is a bit sharp, damn!”
4) Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?
I prefer playing live in the studio! The great thing about live is that anything can happen. In the studio anything can happen and you can play it back. It gets a bit lonely though.
5) What was the most challenging obstacle in trying to achieve success in the music industry?
The fact that love and money don't always mix too well.
6) As you’ve mentioned before, you’re all trying to avoid sounding too similar to the Police and to give the band its own unique sound. Who, then, are some of your influences?
The Specials, The Stranglers, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Pavement, Miles Davis, and The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
7) Since you wanted to avoid sounding like the Police, why did you ultimately decide to open for them on their reunion tour?
We had principles. Sometimes principles outstay their usefulness, other times they just get in the way. As the support band, we could sound like whatever we felt like.
8) For a while, the band didn’t have a full-time drummer. Mr. Wilhoit, you drove 13 hours from Indiana to New York for a brief tryout and were quickly let into the band. What was the driving force that led you to take that long drive just to get into this band? And to Mr. Daunt and Mr. Sumner, what led you to let Wilhoit join the band so fast?
The difference between Pete and every other drummer we tried was so gargantuan that we had no choice! No point hanging on for something better when you're holding a diamond.
9) Although it seems fairly unknown, you did a single for the Disney movie Holes called if Only. Is it any different writing and making a song for a movie?
It was really fun actually. I read the script, then the book, and came up with a song that sounded nothing like our other songs, we recorded it with terrible hangovers and it sounded great! It’s great to bounce ideas off other mediums and get out of one's own stinky box.
10) Over the past year the three of you have toured with The Police. How did doing these large-scale shows compare to some of the smaller venues you’ve done in the past?
It's a great privilege and at times it's amazing but with music I'm really seeking a connection with people and that is pretty tough when people are miles away. I'd rather play a smaller place where you can see each audience member and feel the physical heat that creates.
11) Respectively, what are your favorite songs both from your band and other bands?
Two Sisters, too may to choose from. Right now it's 'Once and Never Again' by the Long Blondes.
12) Between albums, the three of you lost your record company. How difficult was it to gain a new one?
It was kind of easy, as Jason Bieler of Bieler Bros. had been in touch with us the whole time. The tricky bit was realizing that a small label could be better than a giant huge rich one.
13) The new album, Left Side of the Brain, deals with fairly serious issues that are usually unheard among rock bands. Where did this need to discuss war, lost love, and even nepotism come from?
Nothing feels worse than singing happy songs when you don't feel happy. I'd rather sing about the difficult stuff and have the music take me to a better place.
14) How does it feel to now have two complete albums finished?
It feels like we should have 4.
15) As the Police tour comes to an end, what are your plans for the future? Will you continue to tour in smaller venues?
We continue until our joints are worn out. Hopefully, the venues will not be too much smaller for too much longer.
16) Can we expect a new album in the not-too-distant future?
I can see it......... sooooooooooon..........ish.
Thank you Mr. Sumner. I’m a drummer myself so, as a personal question, do you have any tips to get me and my band into bigger gigs like you’ve done? Good luck to you all and thank you. I hope to see you the next time you’re in the Wisconsin area.
We've discovered that getting good gig slots is pretty much about who you know. So get out there and know people! (Meet them first, otherwise it could get confusing.)